My recent visit to Marsh farm has reminded me of how much fun light gear tench fishing really is. All too often I find myself fishing venues, or swims for that matter, that require me to use heavy set ups in order for me to constantly cast weighty feeders at range. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying this isn't fun and it certainly is effective, but what I am saying is that the conduit of bite registration that is the buzzer, can remove us as anglers from interaction with the fish. When fishing a float however this interaction is just about at it's zenith and quite possibly at its most enjoyable.
The constant attention required of float fishing can more often than not enable you to see what is going to happen before actually happens. I think it is the focusing on the tiny luminous tip of a float and the surrounding few feet that draws us closer into the goings on in the water. A bubble or fizz, an oily swirl or a patch of colour in the water all serve to pre-empt the inevitable, or conversely, torture us to the point of paranoia over why we are not getting any bites when fish are obviously on the feeding whilst not eating our baits.
Then there is the language of the float, and that is a language that can be specific to any particular water. The myriad dips, rises and slides can indicate which species we are about to encounter before the rod even cuts through the air to finalise the deal. Ask yourself how many times you have watched a float dancing around on the surface of the water and before you have struck you have predicted out loud what the fish is.
I think that this visual translation is what makes makes float fishing so appealing to anglers. I don't think there is anyone who could deny that the sight of float coming alive after it has sat dormant for so long, is one of the most simply wondrous parts of fishing...
It's a hot afternoon and the sun seems the strongest it has been so far this year. Even sitting half dappled in the shade of two birch trees I am unable to totally avoid its burning rays. I know later in the day when the evening approaches the tree line behind me will offer me some early respite from the brightness and maybe to incline the tench to move, as most of the residents of this lake have melted away in the heat of the mid day sun. One of the only signs of life on the lake come from the shoals of small rudd which ceaselessly move up and down the bank in front of me. They swim endlessly open mouthed gorging on microscopic morsels and every time they pass around my float it shoots up out of the water as they dislodge that tell tale shot from the bottom as they swim through my line in a cloud of silver gold. Other than the rudd the only fish in sight are a pair of basking carp. Their black shadows betray them as the slowly cruise beneath the surface soaking up the suns warmth. Its the first time this year I have seen them bask here, but if the heat continues I know it wont be the last. I have often been tempted to try and thieve one from the surface, but the shear amount of water birds make that an impossible prospect, and today that as always it is only pipe dream. My eyes focus back to the foreground and for a moment I panic and clamber my hand blindly for the cork handle of my rod. In the blink of an eye its hard to re-sight the orange float in the ripple. Eventually I spot it hiding between the light water of the skies reflection and the dark water a tree casts long across the lake and again I relax. For hours I wait and even though nothing happens my attention never wains. I know a trap is set and also know it is set so fine that the merest of movements of that float would betray a fish. It is set so fine in fact that the tiny blue damsel which I can hardly see sinks the float down to a pin prick every time it lands on it. Half straining my eyes and half imagining it, I can see it barely keeping off the water as if stuck on a sinking ship. Then another blue damsel fly comes into its territory it chases it off, which causes my float to rise out of the water and every time I ready myself to strike until it returns and sinks my float back. Not until the sun becomes hidden by that false horizon does the watery world begin to change. The rudd still gorge as they will well into the night, but the carp have gone. The water birds too have begun evening rituals. Canadian geese noisily take off repeatedly circling the lake a few times before landing again and now a moorhen has appeared from the rushes and now clicks as it moves into open water. For the first time this year I can hear a cuckoo whooping in the trees on the other bank. The world moves closer to dark and the time is at hand. The first fizz is slight at first. Nothing more than a hint of different water two feet beyond my float. Then it happens again further off to the right. I can track at least three different fish moving in a pod along the edge of my baited patch. They seem a little standoffish, only seem to wanting to test the water. Maybe the bright sky still perturbs them. For over an hour I watch them linger temptingly around the free food. I was just getting used to the hints of bubbles when a massive patch of bubbles break the surface all at once in an audible fizz. Either the waiting has become too much for one hungry mouth or an interloper has just bargedstraight in head down. Now it is business time and my hand grasps cork ready to strike. The float has risen and fallen many times by now, as multiple fish mooch around sucking in mouthfuls of fishy bait. But not one has been tripped up by my single grain of corn and now I wonder if they might be avoiding it. So, I wonder, should I make that change? I have fed nothing but highly flavoured crumb and corn. Looking down to my left I have two other choices with me. Tiny soft pellets which seem oh so small to me and a diced tin of salty spam which has stewed sweaty in the sun. I decide I can't trust those tiny pellets so I reel in and bait up by pulling the hook through a finger nail sized cube and just twisting a little before bedding the nook in. The float and meat fly through the air well beyond the action and I see the meat go into the water still on the hook. I dip the rod and reel hard to sink the line. The float stands very proud of the water and I envisage the fatty meat slowly sinking between those fish and as it does my float again settles until only the florescent tip shows. Finally it happens! The float first dips as the bait is sucked in. It rises a little at first as the weight is taken of the line. Then as the fish angles back to chew and swallow it,s mouthful my float rises confidently to the point where those two tell-tale shots are way off the bottom, and the float comes four or more inches prone of the water before lolling to one side. In slow motion I watch the line pick up off the water and the rod move into curve in one seamless movement. Then that moment of pause before panic sets in and the fish streaks off. Now it's just a case of going softly as is always the case when the poundage of line is outweighed by the poundage of fish. First the long surging runs are quelled by a well set clutch. But once that is over it becomes a battle in the margins were my finger adds fine tuning to the spool and the arch of rod cushions the head shaking. The fight is nearly over once the slapping of tails is heard here and there. Until one final run ends in a gaping golden mouth and my net engulfs the fish I have sat vigil for hours for. And later when it is dark and I lie in bed, I know the vision of that float rising will be relived again and again, whilst the picture of that perfect float caught tench will send me to sleep with a smile for sure.